(WFLX) - Stress relief, pain relief, a better night's rest: All good reasons to give yoga a try, right?
Maybe not if you're a man.
A recent study found that men are getting hurt in the yoga studio at a much higher rate than women, and those injuries to men are much more serious.
It comes at a time when more men are taking yoga classes. "Many of them are athletes, marathoners, tri-athletes, and they're really enjoying the health benefit that they're getting from the practice," said Rachel Moncayo, a fitness center owner.
Ed Fuller is a triathlete. He started yoga two months ago at the urging of his wife. Now, he's a regular. "It's really not for wimps. It's very strenuous, and it works the muscle groups you may not work in any other kind of sport," he said.
But for former yoga enthusiast Michael Conti, a once-active lifestyle of traveling with his wife and hiking with his son is over. He says he now lives his life in pain, and he blames yoga. "I thought maybe I tweaked my knee or something, and then it turned out to be much more serious than just a meniscus problem. It turned out to be nerve damage," said Conti, a former yoga practitioner.
After reading The Science of Yoga: The Risks And the Rewards, Conti wrote to its author William Broad. "That letter became a turning point. I slapped myself on the forehead. I can remember doing this, and thinking, 'Wow, most of the letters I'm getting about serious injuries have been from guys.'"
Broad started to investigate federal data on emergency room visits for yoga-related injuries. Although men only made up 16 percent of his study, they accounted for 20 percent of the strains, 24 percent of the dislocations, 30 percent of the fractures and a whopping 71 percent of nerve damage injuries linked to yoga. By contrast, women only accounted for the vast majority of fainting episodes.
Sports specialist Dr. Tanya Hagan says in general, there could be a few reasons for this. "Men, with their increased muscle mass and decreased flexibility, are pushing those joints beyond their appropriate physiologic limits."
So should men stop doing yoga or stretch differently?
Dr. Hagan says no, but they may need to cut back on the competition a bit. "Women see it as relaxation and a release. Men are often coming to it with a competitive edge with, 'I can push it harder,'" she said.
Jonathan Creamer has a Web site, "Yoga for Men", and is a yoga instructor. He points out people shouldn't expect to be able to walk into a studio and pose perfectly. "People don't get that. They see the magazine covers, they see the pretty postures, and they think they need to be doing that."
Studies show most yoga injuries occur in class rather than at home. Broad says men, who make up 18-percent of the 20 million practicing yoga in the U.S., tend to pit their strength against their inflexibility and injure themselves. He believes some men need to be reminded that gritting your teeth and pushing through isn't yoga.